President Barack Obama tried to integrate climate change into every facet of federal decision-making; President Trump aims to pull it out by its roots. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that an executive order the president will sign Tuesday “will address the past administration’s effort to kill jobs throughout the country through the Clean Power Plan,” a reference to a regulation limiting greenhouse gases emitted by electric utilities. But it does much more than that: Here’s a snapshot of what’s in, and out, of the directive, based on the latest draft.
WHAT’S IN IT:
1. Instructions to EPA to rewrite regulations restricting carbon emissions from both new and existing power plants. These rules — particularly the one affecting existing plants, many of which are coal-fired — lie at the center of Obama’s effort to curb the nation’s carbon output. The limits on existing facilities aim to cut carbon pollution by about one-third by 2030, compared with 2005 levels, and the rule is subject to a pending lawsuit before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The order would instruct Attorney General Jeff Sessions to ask the D.C. Circuit to hold the lawsuit in abeyance while EPA revises the rules, a process that will take more than a year and will inevitably face a court challenge of its own.
2. Lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing. Trump will direct the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management to lift the freeze on coal leasing on its land, which has been in effect since December 2015. In January, Interior proposed that the program guiding coal exploration and production across 570 million publicly owned acres be updated to factor in the climate effect of such activities and provide a bigger return for U.S. taxpayers. This will not have a major impact on domestic coal production, since the government has sold one set of coal leases since October 2012, and has estimated that it has already granted leases that are equivalent to a 20-year supply of coal. But Pruitt told ABC that this and other policies in the order constitute “a promise to the American people — saying we can put people back to work and be pro-environment as well.”
3. Abolish federal guidance instructing agencies to incorporate climate change into federal decision-making. Obama ordered agencies to include climate change as a consideration when they conducted reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act, a sweeping law that informed any federal decision that had a significant environmental impact. This will be eliminated outright.
4. Jettison the Obama administration’s “social cost of carbon.” The order would dissolve the task force that calculated what has become known as “the social cost of carbon” and revert to the 2003 standard used under the George W. Bush administration. The current calculus, which is set at $36 per ton of carbon dioxide, aims to capture the negative consequences of allowing greenhouse gas emissions to continue to rise and is applied to any regulations that have a climate impact.
5. Promote oil and gas development on Interior’s lands, including national wildlife refuges. The order would make it easier to flare methane on oil and gas operations on federal land. In November the previous administration issued a rule curbing such “fugitive” emissions of the potent greenhouse gas, which the House has voted to overturn. The order would also make it easier to conduct energy exploration on land managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
6. Reverse limits on hydraulic fracturing. The president will instruct Interior to rewrite a 2015 rule, which is currently stayed in court, that imposes restrictions on hydraulic fracturing on federal and tribal lands. Lawyers for the department indicated in court filings earlier this month that they planned to reconsider the rule.
WHAT’S NOT IN IT:
Language on the Paris climate agreement. The president’s top advisers have been divided over whether America should formally withdraw from the 2015 global warming pact that Obama and his deputies helped broker through the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. Under that accord, which has already entered into force, the United States voluntarily committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels in 2025, while making “best efforts” to reduce those emissions by 28 percent. In his Sunday interview, Pruitt suggested that whether the United States opts out or remains in the agreement is unrelated to Tuesday’s executive action. “The Paris accord is nonbinding. It was not a treaty, as such. The Clean Power Plan is not tethered to the Paris accords,” he said. “This is an effort to undo the unlawful approach the previous administration engaged in and do it right going forward with the mind set of being pro-growth and pro-environment.”
The EPA administrator made it clear he’s not a fan of the pact. “What was wrong with Paris was not just that it failed to be treated as a treaty, but China and India got away scot-free. They didn’t have to take steps until 2030,” he said. “We penalized ourselves through lost jobs while China and India didn’t take steps to address the issue internationally. Paris was just a bad deal, in my estimation.”